Archive for June, 2011
“Larry Crowne” might not be a great movie, but the characters in it have words they actually say, and after the horrible experience I had to endure while watching “Transformers 3”, that is a great relief. When a film covers familiar grounds, as this one, it had better offer an original point of view, or at the very least, interesting characters. “Larry Crowne” doesn’t pretend to be original, and it shows. But it features some interesting and colorful people, which makes it hard to resist. The premise is simple enough: Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, who also wrote and directed the film) is fired from his worker-bee job at a big-box store on grounds that his lack of a college education has made him unpromotable. So he enrolls in community-college classes, where he meets the always elegant Julia Roberts. Along the way, we learn stuff that doesn’t always pay off: Larry is divorced, has a huge, valuable collection of vinyl records, and he’s carrying a hefty mortgage on his nice suburban home. Do we really need to know all that? Not really. But Hanks and Roberts have charm, and they carry the film perfectly well, which is more than I can say about an awful lot of movies these days (I still can’t over the fact that “Transformers 3” was the worst cinematic experience I had to endure since “Revenge Of The Fallen” two years ago). Anyway, “Larry Crowne” marks Tom Hanks’ first work as a director since his delightful “That Thing You Do” hit theatres some 15 years ago. Hanks has matured, both mentally and physically, but he still demonstrates a clever instinct for calm, well paced scenes. Such class from such a wonderful actor.
In a year of superheroes and robots, “Larry Crowne” will most certainly appeal to a more mature audience. It’s a perfect summer romantic comedy for grown ups looking to escape all the usual crap. Critics may attack the film’s simplicity and optimism, but Hanks are Co are merely interested in making the target audience feel good about themselves. What’s wrong with that, haters?
Just because you’re a fan of those dumb robots, doesn’t mean that “Transformers 3” is any good. I admit: the first movie caught me off guard, with its solid premise and clever use of CGI. But then came the dreadful part two, which still holds the record for being the worst sequel since “Jason X” (that’s “Friday the 13th Part 11” in case you’re a horror virgin). Even Michael Bay himself admitted that it sucked, but the bastard lied, because here we are again, two years later and nothing has changed. “Dark Of The Moon” is even louder, sillier and longer than its predecessor. It’s a big budget movie with a brain the size of a nut. In a recent interview, Bay promised his fans that the third installment in the series was a return to form. The bastard lied again, because now that I’ve witnessed this “insult” to the senses, I’m not sure I agree. Back to the first film, which started out as fun, Shia LaBeouf played a high school student who finds out that his car is actually an Autobot sent to earth to kick some Decepticons butt. In the new film, it’s all deadly serious, an apocalyptic tale involving big bad robots Vs. human conspirators Vs. something. There are some few light moments, but they’re irrelevant. The only good thing I can say about this crap is that it deepened my appreciation for James Cameron and his use of 3D.
See Bay is laughing at us as we speak, all the way to the bank. The bastard doesn’t care whether he makes one decent movie, as long as his pockets are full. Well here’s what you get to see for your overpriced ticket. He even gives his hero a new girl. Megan Fox was fired for comparing Bay to Hitler (that’s the smartest thing she’ll ever say). The couple couldn’t be duller. British model Rosie Huntington Whiteley can’t act, while LaBeouf only gets excited in the presence of Bumblebee…his car. Get ready to puke, big time.
I know the year is still young, but “Dark Of The Moon” is so bad, it hurts. It lacks imagination, freshness, and a reason to exist. Ultimately, it is almost as bad as every other Michael Bay film. If this is what qualifies as entertainment these days, then I want no part of it.
Director Zach Snyder has been very successful so far, with movies like “300” and the underrated “Watchmen” on his résumé. Now he has directed and co-written yet another film that takes place in an artificial environment, with characters and story as strange as its title. I’ll go ahead and say that I was terribly disappointed. Emily Browning (“A Series Of Unfortunate Events”, “The Uninvited”) plays the central character, a young woman who has been wrongfully committed to an insane asylum (blame her pervert stepdad). During her stay, she bonds with four other inmates (played by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung), and plans for an escape. In the meantime, she finds bliss by escaping into her own imagination, where she pictures her and her friends kicking butt in a series of weird action sequences. These scenes are staged in a video game-like manner, and of course this would have been fine if they were interesting. But because they look so unreal and cartoonish, I couldn’t care less about the outcome of the story and its characters. Throughout this mess, I was reminded of how completely uninteresting it is to watch someone else play a certain video game. Now Imagine yourself watching someone play for almost two hours. Nasty sight right? “Sucker Punch” is exactly that; it opens with a bang, then loses its pedigree way too early, until it reaches a very unsatisfying conclusion. In between, its just one lousy ride. Very atypical from visionary director Zach Snyder.
If stupidity is the message, then “Bad Teacher” is a masterpiece. I didn’t expect much going in, as I tend to be whenever a Hollywood movie announces through its advertising how hilarious it’s going to be. The only hilarious thing here is watching Jason Segel make a fool out of himself playing a gym teacher (who could have thought right?). To be fair though, I did have a couple of laughs when the film opened. Sadly, it only took about 20 minutes for Camerion Diaz and Co to wipe that smile off my face. Damn shame. Diaz looks comfortable enough (by comfortable I mean half naked) playing Elizabeth Halsey, a 7th grade school teacher buried in Illinois. On her first day, she runs a DVD of “Stand and Deliver”, and proceeds to sleep off whatever wasted her the night before. Her mission? to find a guy to replace her fiancé , who kicked her out of the house. Bachelor number 1 is pretty boy Justin Timberlake, the new teacher in town. Problem is: Timberlake’s previous lover had enormous breasts (and a big heart aswell), which means Elizabeth will need $ 10,000 for a boob job. WTF? but wait a minute, it gets worse. Diaz takes over a school fund-raising car wash by showing up in mini shorts. All the fathers and local cops stare in wonder and amazement. Then we see one of the male students, equally drooling; the camera moves down to reveal that he has an erection. Obvious? of course. Then it gets much worse: a dry humping scene involving Diaz and ex-hubby Timberlake, and a couple of toilet jokes all fall embarassingly flat. Which leads me to this: How did Diaz ever become a teacher in the first place? Don’t scratch your head too hard, because the movie doesn’t seem to know or care.
Ever since her breakthrough role in “Atonement” four years ago (which earned her an Academy Award nomination), Saoirse Ronan has proven herself to be one of the best actresses of her generation and a world class talent. In “Hanna”, she carries much of the story on her shoulders, playing the daughter of an ex CIA agent (Eric Bana in top form) who was raised in the snowy wilds of Finland to be the perfect soldier spy. However, she has never been exposed to the outside world, with her only book of reference being the brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales. One day, her father decides it’s time for her to leave their isolated cabin, and cope with a world she doesn’t know, if she can stay one step ahead of the CIA agents who are going to be on her tail, in particular a lethal female veteran, played with perfection by Cate Blanchett. You can bet the rest of the film is as thrilling as its premise; we get share our heroin’s extremely dangerous odyssey as she runs, hides and kills her way through several countries. Along the way, we understand who she really is, where she came from, and what her connection is with the ruthless Blanchett.
With these two women as the heart and soul of the film, there’s always a lot going on, and none of it uninteresting or dull. I found myself rooting for Ronan’s character every step of the way, and that’s always crucial in movies like “Hanna”. And eventhough the film ends on a predictable note, there’s still plenty to enjoy here: the impressive cinematography, the pulse pounding chase scenes, and a perfect score by The Chemical Brothers (which deserves tons of recognition). Without the score, I believe “Hanna” would have been a different, and far less enjoyable experience altogether.
All in all, “Hanna” is a truly fresh, original, and enjoyable thriller. In a season where so many filmmakers are re-imagining things , ultimately in ways we’ve seen so many times before (case in point: “Hangover 2” and “Pirates Of The Caribbean”), this film is a rare, and might I add, welcome treat.
After a few bad films, I realized John Carpenter could fuck up every movie he’d direct for the rest of his career, and I would still admire the man for his work. “Halloween” and “The Thing” were among his best, and even if his career continues to resemble movies like “The Ward”, he will still be considered a legend in my book. One of the main problems with “The Ward” is that it feels astonishingly ineffective. It’s a film that suffers from a bad case of “been there, done that”. Everything is executed poorly, as we follow Kirsten (Amber Heard), a disturbed young girl who ends up in a remote psychiatric hospital against her will. During her stay, she becomes terrorized by a ghost who also happens to be stalking and killing the other patients (how original!). The film borrows heavily from other genre thrillers such as “Identity” and the far more superior “Shutter Island”, whilst failing to capture any of the creepiness that made these films relatively successful. Nothing feels fresh or exciting; the structure, the scares and even the score feel recycled. This is definitely a step back for Carpenter, who obvioulsy deserves better than this terrible “horror” flick. I look forward to his next project, but as far as “The Ward” is concerned, it’s a complete misfire. Beware!
If Mars needs moms, so be it. But I don’t think earth needs this movie at all. The folks at Walt Disney Pictures obviously weren’t thinking on a very high level when they decided to make this film, which is definitely the worst they could come up with in nearly a decade. There is no charm or magic at play here, no sense of discovery upon entering the movie’s universe, no nothing. The story is paper thin; what should have been a 20 minute short goes on for an hour and a half. I fell asleep three times while watching it. That’s always a bad sign. Milo is a whiny brat (and by whiny I mean extremely whiny) who hates taking the trash out. After a long night of misbehavior, he witnesses the abduction of his long suffering mother (voiced by Joan Cusack) by a group of martians. When he tries to follow her, he eventually ends up on the alien spacecraft, where he is reminded just how damn important moms are afterall, and decides to rescue her before her body explodes into nothingness (WTF?). Yes, those martians are pretty ruthless, and they are led by a nazi-like figure that resembles ET’s ugly twin. Together, they have established a plan to abduct the best of earth’s maternal figures in order to suck their life force out, or something. If this sounds confusing, watching this mess will only make it worse. The result is a movie that is too dark for kids, and too lame for adults. In other words, it’s meant to please no one. Martians maybe?